Will health care reform be successful? Capital Hill barbershops show no

President Obama has promised that more government will make health care cheaper and more available. A comparison of two Capitol Hill barbershops sheds some light on whether the president has it right.

Rebecca Craig/AP/The Daily Times
Comparing the privatized House barbershop to the government operated Senate barbershop sheds some light on the future success of health care reform, French argues.

The Supreme Court is going to consider the constitutionality of ObamaCare in the coming weeks, but the government takeover of healthcare didn’t start with the current president, but with Harry Truman decades ago.

We’re told the nation’s health care needs fixed: That the free market isn’t providing for this vital service adequately.  However, America’s healthcare hasn’t been left to the free market since World War II.   The president has promised that more government will make healthcare cheaper and more available.

A comparison of two capitol hill barber shops will shed some light on whether the president has it right.  The Senate and the House of Representatives each have a barbershop for member use.  In 1994, the House barbershop was privatized by Republicans who had taken over control of the House that year for the first time in decades.  The Senate shop has remained a government operation.

Before it was turned into a private enterprise, the House shop employed 16 barbers, each of whom received federal pensions and benefits. Now the shop has three employees, one of which is part-time.

“We’ve gone through a lot of changes, with members going back to their districts on the weekends and fewer customers because of the extra security that the House has put up after 9/11, but we’re all self-employed,” long-time House barber Joe Quattrone says. “Money’s not everything. I love coming to work every day. Would you rather go to a job you hated for $50,000 or one you liked for $40,000?”

The House shop actually turned a profit last year, despite occupying an inferior location in the Rayburn House Office Building, farther from the two adjoining House buildings than is the Senate’s barbershop.

Meanwhile, the Senate Hair Care Services, the formal name for the Senate barbershop, with its 11 employees, required a $300,000 taxpayer bailout to keep its barber pole lighted, despite not having to pay the government a dime in rent.

Having the advantage of government subsidy, one might assume senators pay less for their haircuts and shaves than House members.  Not hardly.  While the Senate barbershop charges $23 for a trim with water but no shampoo and $20 for a shave, the House barbershop charges $17 and $10.

So while many lawmakers are all for having the government take over healthcare and other things that private enterprise can provide better and cheaper, the inefficiency of the Senate barbershop has at least one big government cheerleader wondering.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., is no fan of free markets, but says “I would like to know why the Senate barbershop is running its business into the red.”

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